Adobe Liquid Mode for Easier PDF Viewing on Mobile Devices

Have you ever tried to read a long PDF document on your iPhone or Android phone?

Painful, right? Pinching and zooming, pinching and zooming… Something we recently chronicalled on our blog post: PDFs are unfit for human consumption.

Well, Adobe is finally offering a cloud-based and artificial intelligence (AI)-based solution called Liquid Mode that works within the Adobe Reader mobile apps.

With the push of a button, Liquid Mode automatically reformats text, images, and tables for quick navigation and consumption on small screens. Powered by Adobe Sensei, Liquid Mode uses AI and machine learning in the background to understand and identify parts of a PDF, like headings, paragraphs, images, lists, tables, and more. It also attempts to understand the hierarchy and ordering of those parts to reformat a static PDF into a more dynamic and customizable experience.

Adobe

Essentially, when you open a PDF in the Acrobat Reader app (as shown in the iPhone example below), it will try to determine if it’ll work with Liquid Mode; if so, the Liquid Mode button lights up.



Tap the button and the file is sent to Adobe’s Document Cloud for processing. Once complete, users can tweak to their liking things like the font size and line spacing. Liquid Mode will use the headers/structure it detects to build a tappable table of contents where none existed before, allowing you to quickly hop from section to section. The whole thing is non-destructive, so nothing actually changes about the original PDF. Step back out of Liquid Mode and you’re back at the original, unmodified PDF.



Liquid Mode is available in the free Adobe Acrobat Reader app for iOS and Android. It will also work on Chromebooks that support the Google Play Store and will eventually be available on desktops and browsers.

Win2PDF creates PDF files that are compatible with Adobe’s Liquid Mode. However, Liquid Mode works with most, but not all PDF documents, and is currently limited to PDFs that are under 10 MB in size or 200 pages long. This is still a developing technology and Adobe will improve support and capabilities over time.

Create PDF Documents With Searchable Text from Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge

Win2PDF now has a feature that allows you to print documents that would normally contain non-searchable text to PDF files with searchable text.

Why this feature? When would you use it?  Well, there is one area in particular where this is useful, and that’s when it comes to printing PDF files from Google’s Chrome web browser, Microsoft’s newest Edge browser, or from other Google apps like Docs. Due to the way Google and Microsoft have developed their browsers and apps, printing from these programs creates PDF files that are image-based and not-searchable (or selectable) as actual text. When documents or web pages are printed to a paper printer, this isn’t noticeable or an issue. However it is a problem if you are using Win2PDF or another PDF printer since the files will be larger, non-searchable, and non-selectable.

We’ve solved this problem by adding a new save format called “Portable Document Format – Searchable (OCR PDF)”. When you use this save option when printing from Chrome, Edge, or Google Docs, the resulting PDF file will contain searchable text. It applies Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to the file and converts the image-based text into searchable text automatically.

This has been frequently reported to our Win2PDF help desk as a problem for users and prior to this feature we had to explain a multi-step process to get the desired results. Now, it’s just a single save like it would be from any other application.

This feature is still in our pre-release testing phase, but we want users to try this and give us some feedback. To try this feature, please do the following:

    1. Download and install Win2PDF 10.0.78 (or higher). This version can be downloaded from the Win2PDF 10 Update section of our knowledgebase.
    2. Download and install the Win2PDF Desktop with OCR Download.
    3. After you install the separate Win2PDF Desktop with OCR package, Win2PDF displays an extra save as type labeled “Portable Document Format – Searchable (OCR PDF)

While this is useful when you are creating new PDFs from Chrome or Edge, what about existing files that had previously been saved as image only, or that you received as email? Is there a way to “fix” those so that they are searchable?

Yes. Just open the original PDF in the Win2PDF Desktop App and Select Export  -> PDF – Searchable (OCR) from the File menu.

make-pdf-searchable-menu

The Searchable OCR PDF is only available in our pre-release software and we’re working on improvements, but give it a try and if you have any feedback or issues, let us know by sending an email to [email protected] or opening a ticket at our Helpdesk page.

Researchers Say PDFs Are ‘Unfit for Human Consumption’

We just stumbled across this Vice article titled Researchers Say PDFs Are ‘Unfit for Human Consumption’. It references a new paper published by the Nielson Norman Group outlining the problems with the PDF format that still exist.

“The format is intended and optimized for print. It’s inherently inaccessible, unpleasant to read, and cumbersome to navigate online. Neither time nor changes in user behavior have softened our evidence-based stance on this subject,” the article reads. “Even 20 years later, PDFs are still unfit for human consumption in the digital space.”

Ouch!

While it is an interesting read and does outline some very real limitations of the Portable Document Format as well as strategies to make them more user-friendly, it is, after all, a document format. The primary function of PDF is to make files universally available on all platforms and to preserve the formatting and layout of the original documents.

Court filings, for example, require a consistent and universally accepted standard for submitting electronic documents. Most companies require standardization of company forms across their business practices. Government agencies like the IRS need standard forms and documents for processing. So do hospitals and clinics working with patient medical records. Many electronic texts require a specific layout of images and text in order to be understood correctly and in context. So many examples in just about every industry. And to accomplish this, you really need a standards-based document format.

Having said that, it’s certainly appropriate to make some information available in other formats, especially if the information needs to be dynamically formatted to different sized screens and for different users, but it’s hard to fault PDF because it doesn’t work for all users in all situations.

Also, it should be noted that there really aren’t any viable alternatives to the Adobe PDF for enterprise users where these types of considerations are paramount. Microsoft did try to gain support for its XML Paper Specification (XPS) but it never took hold as a replacement to PDF.

While PDF files do have limitations, especially for users reading the files on small screens like phones or tablets, they still provide the best technology for creating, archiving, and sharing electronic documents. Adobe’s blog gives many reasons why PDFs are better than other proprietary formats.

How to Create a Non-Searchable PDF File

When you create a PDF file from most applications, the result is a PDF that contains both text and images. The text can be searched from PDF viewers like Adobe Reader, can be cut & pasted into other documents, and it can also be indexed and searched by search engines like Google or Bing.

However, some people want to create PDF files that are NOT searchable for a variety of reasons.

We posted an example some time ago where some sensitive documents were redacted in the PDF, and even though they displayed correctly (where the text appeared blacked-out), the actual text in the PDF file was searchable and selectable. Whoops!

There are also situations where lawyers litigating cases need to share documents with the opposing side, and they have an interest in dumbing down the PDF file. That is, making it very difficult to search through the documents.

Whatever the reason, the easiest way to create non-searchable PDF files is to use the PDF Image Only file save option with Win2PDF. This will save all text in the document being printed as an image, so that it can’t be searched or indexed by search engines. You can save the output as either a monochrome image, or a color image depending on your needs.

One caveat with this feature is that it will make the file sizes larger, which is usually not desirable.

Unless, that is, you’re a lawyer litigating a case…

Working from Home Due to Coronavirus? Remember WinPDF Can Help

With more and more office workers now being asked to work from home, it’s probably a good time to revisit how PDF files can help with your day-to-day workflow. Here are a few tips:

  • First and foremost — Win2PDF makes it easy to go paperless! Just use PDF files for document transfers instead of printing and sharing paper! PDF is an acronym for Portable Document Format and it can be shared with any type of user using any type of operating system. If you send a Word or Excel file, a smartphone user or a coworker on an Apple iMac or Macbook may not be able to open the document if they don’t have a Word or Excel viewer installed. PDF files, on the other hand, are universal and can be read by Windows computers, Apple computers, Chromebooks, Unix and Linux computers, iPhones, Android phones, tablets, etc.
  • Second, if you’re using Win2PDF, remember to use the ‘Send file’ option to automatically attach a PDF file to a new email message. It’ll save you a few clicks each time you create a PDF file if you need to share it with others.
  • Fourth, even the free Adobe Acrobat Reader DC program (which is installed on most PCs) has basic tools to comment, annotate, and sign documents. It’s a good way to share feedback when you do send or receive PDF files.
  • Fifth, convert legacy reporting programs to paperless systems by using the Win2PDF Auto-name feature. Need to share different reports with different departments? Add separate copies of Win2PDF and configure them for users of each department. Once reports are in PDF format instead of paper, they’re easy to view and share with users wherever they are located.
  • And lastly, make sure Win2PDF is loaded on your home PC as well. Did you know that the Win2PDF end-user license agreement allows you to install the desktop software on both a work computer and a home computer at no additional charge? You do now.

How to Create an Image from a PDF File

Suppose you have a PDF file that contains a certain page, photo, or diagram that you want to save as an image (to use in another document, for example).  How can this be done with Win2PDF?

When you install Win2PDF on your computer, it creates two different printers.  The most commonly used, obviously, is the “Win2PDF” printer.  But there is also a “Win2Image” printer that can be used to create image files in a variety of formats.

Win2Image and Win2PDF in the printers folder

The general process to save an image from a PDF file is:

  •  Open the PDF file in Adobe Reader, or any other PDF viewer application
  •  Select ‘Print’ from Adobe Reader and choose the printer named ‘Win2Image’

Select Win2Image in the Printers drop down menu

  •  Select the page you want to extract or save as an image

Select page number to extract and save as an image file

  •  Select the output format you want the new file to be.  You can save color or black & white versions in a variety of formats like JPG, TIFF, GIF, PNG, and BMP.

Select File format for the new image file

  •  Save

And that’s it.  You can now edit this new image file (crop, resize, etc.) with an image editor and insert it (if desired) into any other application.

PDF: The World’s Most Important File Format

I still haven’t seen Avengers: Endgame, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like a good origin story.  This new article explains why the PDF’s superpower is that it’s The World’s Most Important File Format.

adobe

As the article notes, the PDF format has a long history and it’s here to stay.  “In 50 years, these PDFs, even with their weaknesses, will help us document history with little of the ephemeral nature of the web. And unlike in paper form, those PDFs won’t suffer from frayed pages. The history of our generation will probably be in PDF form.”

Survive This Tax Season? Start Organizing Next Year’s Tax Documents Now!

If you’re like most of us, there’s nothing like the looming deadline of April 15th to rouse you into organizing your tax documents.  Every year, I think I should have a better system of organizing my files to make it easier for the following year.  While not perfect, I have made some progress through the use of a couple free Adobe apps, combined with the use of Win2PDF.  Here’s one system I use:

Adobe Reader DC

First off, I rely on the free Adobe Reader DC software for my desktop PC, laptop, and even my Apple computer.  The “DC” designation in this software stands for Document Cloud.  It requires you to sign up for a free Adobe login to access the Adobe Document Cloud, but once you do, you’ll be able to access your saved PDF files from any device.

Adobe Scan (for iOS or Android)

adc-adobe-scan-app-enhance-feature-450x500-en.jpeg.imgSecond, I’ve really come to rely on the very handy Adobe Scan app on my phone (it’s available both through the Apple App Store or from the Google Play Store).

As the Adobe introduction page points out, “Adobe Scan automatically captures and cleans picture-perfect images of anything — receipts, forms, pictures, business cards, notes. Then, using built-in optical character recognition (OCR), it transforms them into smart PDFs, available in Adobe Document Cloud. Now, they’re easy to search and share from anywhere.

With those 2 applications (plus Win2PDF) I can do a bunch of things to organize my tax documents (or any other documents).  Here’s one suggestion for storing charitable donation receipts:

  1. Scan paper receipts for charitable contributions (donation receipts, mailed letters, etc.) using Adobe Scan with your phone and save the files to the cloud.
  2. On the desktop PC, access these files using the Adobe Document Cloud (via Adobe Reader DC).
  3. Use Win2PDF to append any additional electronic documents (email receipts, other PDF files, etc.) and combine all of the charitable contribution receipts for the year in a single PDF file (e.g., to a file called “Charitable Tax Receipts 2019.pdf”).
  4. Keep this document stored in the Adobe Document Cloud (or any other cloud service like Dropbox, Google Drive, etc.) and keep adding to it throughout the year as you make contributions and collect receipts.
  5. When April 15, 2020 rolls around you’ll have a complete electronic file of your receipts.  Voilà!
  6. And, as a bonus, you can use the new Win2PDF command line features to extract specific pages or print specific pages if you need to in the future.

This works well for charitable contributions, but I also have been using it for non-tax purposes as well, such as:

  • Medical expenses and prescriptions
  • Home improvement expenses
  • My dog’s veterinary bills (and medical history)
  • Keeping a copy of Christmas cards we receive each year (while recycling all of the paper)
  • Recipes
  • Concert ticket stubs

You get the idea.  Just scan and save from your phone, organize everything from your desktop, and store you collection of PDF files in the cloud.  And best of all this is all FREE!  Which is a very nice thing to consider, especially after tax season…

Is your PDF Reader up-to-date?

Just a reminder to anyone receiving or opening PDF files: keep your PDF Readers up-to-date with new patches.  Adobe Reader announced an update to address 86 security vulnerabilities.  Similarly, Foxit Reader announced an update to address 118 vulnerabilities.

adobepdficon

As this article from ZDNet explains,

“Adobe’s scheduled October update for its Acrobat and Reader PDF software addresses 85 vulnerabilities, including dozens of critical flaws that allow arbitrary code execution … Users and admins nonetheless should install fixed versions, according to Adobe…”

Halloween is still almost a month away, so make sure you keep the scary stuff away from your computer until then.

Adobe’s security bulletin (with link to update).

Foxit Reader security bulletin (with link to update).

How to Add a Signature and Date to a PDF file

One of the questions we frequently get is:  Can I use Win2PDF to add a signature to a PDF file?

While Win2PDF doesn’t directly support this, many people don’t realize the free Adobe Reader software they already have installed already has this capability.  And it’s quite easy to use.

Sign_or_initial-1

For example, suppose you are using Win2PDF to create a sales quote for a new customer, and you want to have them sign, date, and return the quote as a PDF file so it can be archived.  In the “old days”, the customer would need to print the PDF file, sign the paper, and then scan it back in to the computer.  With Adobe Reader, this is not necessary.  Just open the PDF file, insert a digital signature and add text for date, initials, PO number, etc., and then save the PDF file to return it.  Here’s a short tutorial that shows how it can be done:

For additional information, you can visit Adobe’s support page on signing PDFs.

Happy signing…